BBB gives tips to save money, avoid scams while back-to-school shopping

The Better Business Bureau is helping students and parents gear up for back to school by providing tips to save money and avoid scams.

With the emphasis on in-person instruction resuming in Texas, shopping for back-to-school supplies is expected to be vastly different this year than it was during the 2020-’21 school year, says the BBB.

According to the National Retail Federation, 49% of parents with school-aged children said their kids are most excited about shopping for back-to-school clothing this year. Additionally, 61% of consumers plan to purchase their back-to-school supplies around major sale events including Prime Day, Fourth of July or Labor Day. 

The BBB says that with the majority of shopping being done online this year, consumers should exercise caution before making an online purchase.

Between May-July 2020, Texas consumers lost an average of $50,000 per month to online purchasing scams, according to BBB Scam Tracker data. Many of those who lost money to online clothing stores found the business through an advertisement on social media. 

One Texas consumer reported more than $500 lost to an online seller who "takes your money when you order his merchandise but never sends anything that was purchased. When I tried to message him about the missing order, he blocked me and told me I couldn’t make him do anything."

The BBB offers the following tips to save money and avoid scams:

Check around your home

Start back-to-school shopping right at home by making a list of everything that you need and then taking stock of everything that you may have stored in desks, drawers, closets or storage areas. Some supplies may still be leftover from last year, saving you from purchasing the same item twice.

Research expensive purchases

Before purchasing expensive items such as computers, laptops, or a refrigerator for a dorm, research the brand, reviews of the product, warranty and prices at multiple locations. 

If making a purchase for a college dorm, consumers should note that universities often have rules regarding the size and placement of refrigerators in dorms. Consumers should check with the housing office at the college or university on whether an energy-efficient refrigerator is required or not.

Ask for student discounts

Stores and software companies often offer discounts to students that have either a student ID or a valid .edu email address. Even if a discount is not advertised, it never hurts to ask.

Shop in bulk

If purchasing standard items that are needed at the beginning of each school year, such as binders, notebooks or writing utensils, purchasing items in bulk is a great way to save money.

Shop safely online

If purchasing school supplies online, verify that the URL starts with "https" and includes a lock symbol. The "s" in "https" stands for secure and includes additional encryption and security measures than a "http" website.

If purchasing from a lesser-known website, make sure to take the time to read reviews and feedback from previous customers. The lowest price may not always be the best route. If the company’s contact information is not clearly listed, or they only have an email as the point of contact, that is a red flag to possibly shop elsewhere.

If the seller asks for payment via wire transfer or a gift card, that is a sign it may not be a legitimate business. Using a credit card is almost always the best option when purchasing online due to the additional protections they have to dispute and resolve charges when purchased products are not received.

For more tips for back-to-school shopping, click here.

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